Buku And More
Even by our high standards, it has been an amazing week for music in New Orleans. If these next few weeks are any indication, we are in for a fantastic spring. The week started on Wednesday with AF THE NAYSAYER opening for Quantic at Gasa Gasa. The evening began with local Amahl Abdul-Khaliq (otherwise know as AF THE NAYSAYER) providing a tight set of downtempo hip-hip, hammered out with intense passion on his production rig. Amahl’s introspective set perfectly set the stage for Will Holland (otherwise known as Quantic). For Wednesday’s set, the multi-instrumentalist had stripped down to his decks and led the audience through a DJ set of some of his most memorable tracks. The beats were decidedly Latin and Caribbean. As soon as the needle hit the first 45, the crowd was off and running. It has been a long time since I have seen an entire room immediately start to move to a beat like that.
Wednesday’s dance party was followed with a night of classic rock on Thursday. If you saw my interview with Colin Blunstone last week, then you know The Zombies were in town. I have to tell you, that was a heavy night of music. Rod Argent and Colin are as sharp and crisp as ever. The combination of Colin’s startlingly clear voice and Rod’s fantastic organ and piano work made the crowd believe that the 60s were alive and well at the House of Blues that night. The group played a large portion of the Odessey and Oracle record as well as some deep cuts from both The Zombies’ records and the solo work of Rod and Colin. They ended their set with the one-two punch of “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” and “She’s Not There”. The combo of these songs combined with the showmanship of all involved lifted the crowd to a frenzy and capped off an evening of excellent standards and storytelling.
In addition to the St. Patrick’s day festivities, this weekend was also the BUKU Music + Arts Festival. I didn’t get to spend as much time at BUKU as I would have liked, but the time I was able to spend there was excellent. Over the last couple of years, BUKU has begun to feel like a fully realized festival. The expansion of the art installations has come to mark and delineate the space as a wholly contained entity. This creativity works together with the music performances to create a mood for the attendees and carry them from stage to stage. This year BUKU flowed. From what I saw, everything from performances to vendors to art installations just worked. In terms of the performers themselves, the highlights of my day at BUKU were Portugal. The Man and Empire of the Sun. Portugal. The Man brought a very tight set of their hits including a wonderful mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with their own “Purple Yellow Red and Blue”. Later that night Empire of the Sun’s took over the Power Plant and laid down one of the best performances I have seen in quite some time. The Australian electro-pop duo lived up to their reputation. Their intensity as performers combined with perfectly executed stagecraft and multiple costume changes to make for an overwhelming visual experience. Singer Luke Steele seemed to be everywhere at once: sometimes being lifted through the back of the stage while flanked by costumed dancers, other times down on the barricades singing along with the audience and finally, spectacularly smashing his guitar over his knee as the final chords of the set carried out over the last fluttering bits of confetti. It has been a couple of years since I have seen Empire and I have to say that they have developed wonderfully. This show was a perfect compliment to the exact vibe that BUKU is attempting to build. I look forward to seeing how this festival will develop with time.
Speaking of acts from BUKU, 2014 standouts Smallpools release their first full length record, LOVETAP! this week. I have been following these guys since their early success a couple of years ago. From the opening track “American Love” you will be hooked on this record. This is going to be the pop record of the summer. The soaring nature of Sean Scanlon’s vocals is on perfect display here and older singles like “Dreaming” and “Over & Over” fit in perfectly among the new tracks. Make sure to take this record with you to the beach.
Check out “Dreaming” here
Also in new music, next week Laura Marling will release her fifth album, Short Movie. This is another excellent entry from the British folk songstress. After three past nominations for the Mercury Prize, hopefully this is the record that finally win for her. The album is available to stream at NPR here.
In shows this week, if you’re looking for bluegrass rock, Mike West returns to New Orleans tonight with his family as Truckstop Honeymoon at d.b.a. Also check out Steve Gunn with Ryley Walker on Friday night at Gasa Gasa. An alumni of Kurt Vile’s group, the Violators, Gunn is an excellent singer songwriter in his own right. The combination of Gunn and Walker on the same bill means that we are in store for a night of British folk inspired melodies. Finally, if you are looking for something with a little more bite, Nashville psychedelic rockers, All Them Witches will be at Gasa Gasa on Monday night. There is a little something for everyone this week, get out there and start training for Jazzfest.